[Moderated by Matt Jones]
The violence in football has always been a hot topic of debate. Especially recently after multiple suicides were committed by former football players. I touched on this issue briefly when the media were still up in arms over what regulations should take place to ensure the safety and health of players, but President Obama’s recent statements prompts me to once again address the issue. President Obama recently said, “If I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football.” That’s a pretty powerful statement coming from the most powerful man in America.
“You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”
His statements intentionally call out the NCAA and encourage them to take action. Forbes magazine wrote an article that puts the NCAA in a very negative light and portrays the association as a group of individuals with agendas that don’t put the “student-athlete” first. Journalist Taylor Branch says it best: “For all the outrage, the real scandal is… that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes.” If you review the actions of the NCAA the only thing you could do is agree.
“If the NCAA began penalizing member schools for failing to follow their concussion plans… that could convey the appearance that the NCAA has accepted a duty to protect students—creating a legal relationship between the NCAA and its student-athletes, and making the organization an easier target for the lawsuits it’s already facing.” ~Branch
The term student-athlete was created after a player died of a head injury he received in a football game. The term was created to fight against workman’s compensation insurance claims after his widow tried to file for benefits. It solved the problem of whether or not college football related injuries or deaths were considered a work-related accident. The widow received no money, and neither would anyone else after her. Because of this term several colleges have won numerous liability cases. It’s obvious that the NCAA could care less about the health and safety of the players.
Even after the players move on to play at the professional level, the NCAA will not pay them for using them in NCAA video games, etc. They basically own the player even after he has gone on to the next level. Thankfully, the athletes are just as fed up with the NCAA as the public and have begun taking them to court, trying to get the money they deserve.
The NCAA is under an even bigger microscope now that the corruptness in the association is coming to light; with players, law makers, students, coaches, etc., all looking into it and analyzing their next move. Calipari’s idea of having power conferences rule the college basketball scene seems more logical every single day and it’s the right move to take. If the NCAA and the universities aren’t protecting the student athletes from injuries than who is? It’s as easy to ignore the NCAA’s concussion rule as it is to breathe. Nothing is done to universities who fail to abide by the rule. Whether the NCAA wants to or not, the criticism from the public and media are forcing them to evaluate the way they have run things. Finally, there is more pressure then ever to put the player’s safety first. The question is how far does the public need to go in order for the NCAA to make changes and put the student-athlete’s interests before their own, something they’ve never truly done.
In this case, in order to move forward it is essential to look backward. The start of the NCAA was encouraged by Teddy Roosevelt, who was upset that Yale had created a $100,00 slush fund that put Princeton and Roosevelt’s Alma Mater, Harvard, at a disadvantage. Even the foundation that the Association was founded on isn’t one that was made for the protection or benefit of the athlete. With the NCAA being criticized more in the media now then they ever have been, if there’s a time to act the time is now. Perhaps Obama can use his voice to bring about change in college athletics that is way overdue. Hopefully his recent comments will make more players, fans, etc., take a stand and demand changes be made.
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